Discussing race is about discussing otherness. I've had a long history of friends and boyfriends who do not mirror my appearance or accent or home country, and I sometimes wonder why. I don't think it was particularly a conscious choice. As a child in Minnesota, my preferred neighbor friends were Korean and Vietnamese neighbor girls, even though there were several white neighbor girls also. After my dad died and I returned to Alexandria, I became "other" overnight, though it was not obvious from the outside to those who first met me. I am always careful to explain that my life was not a giant walk in the park and I understand being an outsider. But then I also understand that I have many inclusionary qualities. So I have the understanding of both sides of the world.
In a TED talk on otherness by Thandie Newton that I recently viewed, she discusses her otherness and how it affected her, and urges us to create a world of oneness with each other. She also points out that race is not about biology or genetics, which was something I didn't know:
By 19, I was a fully-fledged movie actor, but still searching for definition. I applied to read anthropology at university. Dr. Phyllis Lee gave me my interview, and she asked me, "How would you define race?" Well, I thought I had the answer to that one. And I said, "Skin color." "So biology, genetics?" she said. "Because, Thandie, that's not accurate.Because there's actually more genetic differencebetween a black Kenyan and a black Ugandan than there is between a black Kenyan and, say, a white Norwegian. Because we all stem from Africa. So in Africa, there's been more time to create genetic diversity." In other words, race has no basis in biological or scientific fact.
In this discussion of otherness, I think of the current uprisings across the world calling for change. Too long have we considered those who are different, whether better or worse off, our own neighbors or not, to be "the other," quietly walling ourselves off in our safe separate worlds. I think the movements which are going on are less about Wall Street and more about awakening. Awakening to question the separation in the world by race, and wealth, and location. In truth we are all one and interconnected. It is time to start rebuilding our connections to the earth, to our fellow beings, to the "other" inside and outside ourselves. We are all one in the same, united in our otherness, united in our time on this earth.